Sales Is from Mars, Marketing Is from Venus

Twenty years ago, a newly published self-help book by Dr. John Gray stormed the best-seller lists. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships outlined the author's ideas about why it is such a struggle for so many men and women to meet each other's needs and develop more satisfying personal relationships. Whether the result of biology or culture, Gray explained, males and females often have different communication styles and modes of behavior. The failure to recognize and accept those differences leads to resentment, conflict, and an ultimately dysfunctional relationship. But how does this theory apply to business?

Picture this: Marketing runs a promotional campaign and hands over a stack of leads to sales. The sales team immediately dismisses them as poor quality and either demands better leads or simply ignores them and continues cold-calling. Potential leads go cold, marketing lead generation budgets are squandered, sales misses their quota, and nobody is happy. Sound familiar?

It's a scenario that is a lot more common in corporations today than many of us would care to admit. The fact is that communication problems between marketing and sales are often so fundamental and so persistent that in many cases their relationship can only be described as dysfunctional.

Frequent disagreements, competing objectives, misaligned compensation systems, and very different work styles cause marketing and sales to behave like bickering spouses in an unhappy marriage. Their dysfunction frequently expresses itself in petty grudges and exaggerated claims. “Sales never calls any of our leads,” says marketing. “Those marketing leads are no good, why bother?” sales answers. “Our leads are golden! We worked hard to generate them,” replies marketing. “Go back to your pretty colors and press releases and leave us alone,” sales responds.

In my role as CEO at Marketo, I have frequently had the opportunity to talk with my peers and with revenue professionals in all kinds and sizes of companies around the globe. Since my company's business is all about transforming the way that marketing and sales teams work and collaborate, I am often treated like some sort of glorified marriage counselor. “Why can't my marketing and sales teams get along?” these business associates ask. “What can I do to break the log jam?” “I'm just so sick of the bickering.”

CEOs and other executive leaders are more than just the long-suffering observers of this bickering; they are frequently part of the problem. Like an unpleasant mother-in-law (but unlike my own mother-in-law, I hasten to add), executive leaders often manage to throw little bombs into the mix that end up stoking the marketing and sales dysfunction. When CEOs want a revenue forecast, they intuitively ask their head of sales without even considering what their Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) might have to say about the topic. Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) talk about sales as the “revenue producing” part of the organization. They use words like “making investments in more salespeople.” But when they refer to spending on marketing, they don't talk about it as “investments”; instead, they refer to costs, and questionable costs at that.

None of this is news to seasoned executives and managers. The strained relationship between marketing and sales has been around for about as long as there have been marketing and sales teams working together. Until recently, those strains have mostly served as a source of eye-rolling and irritation, but not really as a fundamental drag on business performance. But today, this dysfunction has metastasized to become the single greatest source of lost productivity and squandered revenue in the modern corporation.

There is a tremendous opportunity to improve this situation. Transforming this relationship into one of mutual respect — and more importantly, continuous collaboration among the best that both sides have to offer — can become a tremendous source of opportunity for top-line and bottom-line business performance and revenue growth.

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